The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a mentor as “a trusted counselor or guide.” Mentors can be consultants, counselors, or even gurus. In a world filled with people who have diverse passions, skills, and goals, how do you find the right mentor for you?
3 Types of Mentors
First, get really clear on what you mean by mentor. The possibilities can be divided into three potential categories:
- A hands-on mentor who you have a consistent working relationship with.
- Someone who you stay in contact with and see occasionally over the years, and whose guidance profoundly impacts your future.
- Someone you never meet but whose body of work you follow and use as guidance in your own life, career, or relationships.
You aren’t limited to just one mentor, but there is something to be said about focusing on learning from one mentor at a time. Keep in mind that your mentor could focus on your career, relationships (like marriage or parenting), or self-reflection and personal growth. Once you are really clear about what the focus of your mentor relationship will be, it’s time to find your mentor.
How to Find Your Mentor
1. Find someone you admire and want to be like. This is someone who may have a similar set of strengths and skills that you want to emulate. Remember a mentor doesn’t want to be copied, they want to watch you develop your own strengths and skills with their guidance.
2. Where do you find someone you admire and respect? Sometimes you may get caught up looking at the thought leaders of your industry. You may see celebrities or influencers in your field regularly. When media and social media surround you, it is easy to think the loudest voice is the one to follow. The ability to discern who the right mentor is out of many options can come down to using your intuition.
3. Study this person. Follow their social feeds, read their books, or if they are someone from your local community, get to know them. Take their classes. Understand their strengths as well as their weaknesses. Know if their core values line up with yours. Before you ask them to form a mentor relationship with you, you need to spend time getting to know them.
4. Read, listen, feel. Some people are admirable writers but not such prolific teachers or speakers. I have heard life-changing talks given by people whose books I couldn’t finish. Likewise, there are some fabulous writers who cannot effectively deliver their message at a live event. If you want a mentor who feels truly aligned with your needs, choose someone whose message resonates, who writes well, who speaks well, and who has effectively branded themselves as a thought leader or expert.
5. Get in tune with the signs. In an interview with Melanie Whelan, CEO of Soul Cycle (an indoor cycling company), I picked up this great tip: If you hear about something three times in a short period, try it. The Universe is constantly sending you hints about who to read, what podcasts to listen to, or what courses to take. Listen to the signs.
6. Don’t forget to look sideways. While looking up for inspiration, you can sometimes forget that right beside you there are people you can learn from. Instead of leveling up, look at what other people are doing outside your region but with similar skills and resources.
Mentorship Action Items
Once you have found someone, the next steps look like this:
1. Meet. If you are looking for guidance from a person, you need to meet them. Some business forums recommend a formal email request or query letter. I think, with time being a valuable resource, finding a unique way to show how the relationship will be mutually beneficial and then reaching out is a better idea.
2. Evaluate. After you meet your potential mentor, ask yourself the following questions:
- Did you feel better or worse after the meeting?
- Did you feel like you made a connection?
- Did you discuss a plan to follow up after the meeting?
3. Drop your agenda. Remember to let your mentor relationships evolve naturally. When you meet with the expectation of wanting to like someone or wanting to impress someone, it can be challenging to stay present. Be curious and listen rather than leading the conversation.
4. Ask what you can do for them. There is a law of giving and receiving in the Universe. If you are asking to get something, you need to be willing to give. Think about how you can pay it forward. In the words of author Paulo Coelho, “What is a teacher? I'll tell you: it isn't someone who teaches something, but someone who inspires the student to give of her best in order to discover what she already knows.”
Do you have an inspiring story of a mentor? I’d love to hear it. We can all learn from one another, so please share your mentor experiences in the comments below.